Friday, October 23, 2009

out of time

out of time
time thriller trilogy: book 2
by Paul McCusker
236 pages
Young Adult
Grand Rapids, MI : Zonderkidz, 2009

   Once again Jeff and Elizabeth are caught in a time-tangle in their hometown of Fawlt Line. This time they aren't the ones who time travel (see Ripple Effect), King Arthur makes a flesh and blood appearance in an historical ruin Jeff's Uncle Malcolm had imported from England. Things get hectic when King Arthur, speaking only Latin, has a hard time communicating and gets put in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. Jeff, Malcolm, Elizabeth and her dad (Latin translator) do everything they can to return Arthur to England all the while trying to figure out what his mission is. The hardest part is keeping him away from local authorities who might misinterpret his behavior, especially when he decides to unsheathe Excalibur! There is a man who may or may not be Merlin, and a man who may or may not be Mordred who complicate things further.
   Though this is the second book in the trilogy, it can be read fine on its own. The author makes a couple of references to the teens adventure in the first book yet it doesn't really have any impact on the adventure with Arthur. I have the final book in the trilogy that I will be reading in the next few weeks so it will be interesting to see how they all tie together. So far an interesting and adventurous series, but nothing spectacular.

Grumpy Old Monsters

Grumpy Old Monsters
created and written by Kevn J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
art by Guillermo Mendoza and Paco Cavero
99 pages
comic/graphic novel
San Diego, Calif. : IDW, 2009

     All the classic monsters can be found at Rest in Peace: A Retirement Care Facility for Mature Monsters with Special Needs. Yet none of them are at peace, they all miss the good old days when people were frightened of them. Now they are the ones frightened by the nursing staff at the home. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Werewolf, Frankenstein's Monster, and The Mummy. Only young Tiffany Frankenstein, granddaughter of the infamous creator, takes time to visit them. On one of her visit's she breaks the tragic news that Castle Frankenstein is going to be demolished by the Van Helsing Corporation to make way for some high-rise condominiums. The monsters decide to escape from the rest home and help their friend save the family estate.
     A silly tale with mediocre art that is pretty much appropriate for all ages. A couple of unnecessary panels showing the monsters' apparent fascination with breasts means this particular graphic novel will be available in the teen section of our library and not the children's department. This probably would not be an issue at most libraries but I work in a rather unique environment where parents are a bit more offended. There are also numerous pop culture references that will mean something to adults who read it and make teens and children wonder. Not one I will purchase for my personal collection or even read again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Shifter

The Shifter
The Healing Wars: Book 1

by Janice Hardy
juvenile fantasy
370 pages
New York : Balzer & Bray, 2009

Geveg and its neighboring countries are being overtaken by the Evil Duke of Baseer. He is greedy and wants all of their pynvium, a special ore used both for healing and weapon-making. Nya and Tali are two sisters orphaned by the war. To survive, Tali enters the Healer League to learn how to master her ability to heal and draw out someone's pain. She and all the other Healers, or Takers, then transfer the pain into the pynvium so they don't have to carry it longer than necessary. Pain-filled pynvium is then used to make weapons. Nya too is a healer, yet she does not have the ability to transfer the pain into pynvium, instead she can transfer the pain into another person. You can imagine the many wrong-ways someone could use this power. Considered an Abnormal Taker, she can not enter the League and has to scrape out an existence on the streets while trying to hide her talents. When her beloved sister is in danger, Nya is forced to reveal her secret to a pain merchant. She will have to make sacrifices and hard decisions, always thinking of her sister and her fellow Gevegians. She has a couple of great friends to help her in and out of some tough spots, including a possible romantic interest. This is an enjoyable fantasy adventure for middle school and upper elementary students (boys and girls alike). High-school age kids would probably enjoy it, but would think it a bit tame compared to a lot of the teen literature out there right now. It is obviously the first in a series, yet it wraps up enough I am not going to be as frustrated with the wait as I usually am with other series. 

Hannah's Winter

Hannah's Winter
by Kierin Meehan
juvenile mystery
205 pages
La Jolla, Calif. : Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2009
(originally published in Australia 2001)

Hannah is a 12-year-old redhead from Australia. Her mother has dumped her with family friends in Kanazawa, Japan while she tours the country getting information for her next book. Hannah would much rather be home with her dad and going to school with her friends. However, her mother decided this would be the perfect opportunity to improve her Japanese language skills. Resigned to make a go of it, Hannah settles into the household. She quickly makes friends with Miki, the daughter, which is a good thing considering they immediately get drawn into a ghostly mystery. It all began when Miki's father received a box of old paper stuff at his shop. The girls find a box with old paper toys and a riddle about an ocean boy. When the riddle starts mirroring their daily life they begin to take it seriously.The girls friendship strengthens as they dodge flying donuts, slosh through the snow to visit obscure shrines and visit with the keeper of old frogs.
This was a nice little mystery, ghost story, international friendship book. It was nothing super fantastic, but would appeal to upper elementary girls who like ghosts and mysteries. However, the cover is going to be a big drawback. The cover is nice and artistically pleasing, if it were and adult novel. Young girls will not be drawn to it, and the especially will not be thinking it is a ghostly mystery story. Hopefully the paperback will have a more appropriate cover so I can get the girls that come to the library to read it.

Highway Robbery

Highway Robbery
by Kate Thompson
ill. by Jonny Duddle and Robert Dress
juvenile historical fiction
118 pages
New York, NY : Greenwillow Books, 2009

The young narrator of this story is a scrawny little urchin begging his way through life on the streets of London. One cold and dreary day a gentleman asks him to hold his horse until he gets back, promising him a gold coin if he successfully does so. As the day progresses and the "gentleman" doesn't return, our young hero ponders all the ways he could spend the promised coin. His reflections are frequently interrupted by would-be horse thieves, obnoxious girls, and the King's soldiers.  The soldiers inform him that he is guarding the horse of the infamous highway robber, Dick Turpin. They then use the boy and the horse to set a trap for the criminal. Our youngster's thoughts are in turmoil about this change in events, and he is only sure of one thing, he was promised some money and no matter, he was getting paid for the job! A fun, short, historical fiction with pleasant black and white illustrations throughout.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Thumbs Sideways?

Thumbs Up

Opposnakes: A Lift-the-Flap Book About Opposites
Salina Yoon
New York : Little Simon, c2009

Clever fold-out pages. Fun way to teach opposites to small children.

Thumbs Sideways

The Strange Case of the Missing Sheep
Mircea Catusanu
New York : Viking, 2009

Strange, slightly bizarre illustrations to go with a strange, slightly bizarre story. Kind of fun though.

Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott
Yona Zeldis McDonough 
ill. Bethanne Andersen
New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2009

Nice simple biographical story. Illustrations not my favorite.

Thumbs Down

Guess Again!
Mac Barnett
ill. Adam Rex

Can I just say random!! Slightly frustrating for some young children, things aren't at all what they expect. Although Adam Rex is one of my favorite illustrators, this was not my favorite work of his.

Emily Gravett

Love the cover. That's about it. Story idea cute, but I didn't like the execution of it. Interior illustrations nothing too exciting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recipe 4 Robbery

Recipe 4 Robbery
Marybeth Kelsey
282 pages
Juvenile Fiction
Lindy is so thrilled to be helping her mother with the annual Cucumber Festival preparation. She tries to escape with her best friend but gets roped into sampling a lovely dish of stewed cucumbers made by Granny Goose.While choking them down and pretending to like them she finds a gold locket swimming in the muck. A pesky boy from her class informs her that it must be part of the loot that was stolen from the home in the neighborhood. This wealthy family had sponsored a food class at their home only to discover several priceless items stolen shortly after. Granny Goose is a bit of an eccentric. She operates an animal rescue clinic in her own backyard. She has everything from a three-legged croc to a goose named Pickles that follows her around wherever she goes. The evidence seems to point to her as the thief but the kids don't believe it. Someone must be trying to frame Granny Goose. Their investigation begins and the suspect list grows long. Will the trio figure out who the thief is before Granny's goose gets cooked?
Recipe 4 Robbery will lead kids on a fun and silly goose chase as they try to figure out who the real thief is! Not a fabulous book by any means, but definitely entertaining to a degree. Should find popularity with 4th and 5th grade girls. Boys might like it too, but the main character is a girl and that does typically turn a lot of boys that age off a book.

The Circus Ship

The Circus Ship
by Chris Van Dusen
unpaged picture book
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2009

A selfish and greedy circus owner is on a boat headed to Boston with his menagerie. The ship's captain is concerned about the weather and wants to stop and wait it out. The circus owner forces him to persist and eventually the ship runs aground. The circus owner is saved but the animals are left to their own devices. They finally reach land near a small Maine town. At first the townspeople are frightened by the strange creatures. Eventually they learn to love them and will do anything to save them from their crazy owner when he returns to reclaim them.
Van Dusen loosely based the event on a true story, but this is not a story of the true event. His illustrations are wonderful, full of charm and humor. My son read it like an hidden object book, having to find all the animals in every scene. Good stuff, I hope we see much more of this talented author/illustrator.

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles
by J. Patrick Lewis
ill. Lynn Munsinger
poetry picture book
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 2009

How well do you know your children's books? This clever little book quizzes you on thirteen story plots that range from Cinderella to Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. The clues are given through wonderfully detailed illustrations and an accompanying bit of verse. My personal favorite is the tenth one. In case you are wondering, I did get the correct answers, and I have even read all of them!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Monster Sleepover!

Monster Sleepover!
written and illustrated by Scott Beck
picture book
New York : Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2009

A whole bunch of monsters get together for a slumber party. Snacks, games, and silliness are just some of the activities going on at this party. The monsters include a dinosaur, skeleton, mummy, vampire, ghost, alien and robot. The illustrations are cutely simple. The text at the bottom of the page is unnecessary and a little annoying for the most part. The square panels with the illustatrions are laid out like a very basic comic book. This part of the book is the best part. Pay particular attention to the robot, he was the cause of much laughter for my son. Overall, not a great story or illustrations, but some humor makes it not a total waste of time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


written and illustrated by Ursula Vernon
152 pages
New York : Dial Books, 2009

Danny is a young dragon who hasn't found his fire yet. This brings him no-end of teasing from the big bad  Komodo Dragon,, resident bully at his school for reptiles and amphibians. I  must admit I did not finish this book. I just didn't have enough time to read something I was only mildly interested in. The book is half text-based novel and half graphic novel. All the fun pictures are drawn in green, black and white ink. Dragonbreath will probably find popularity with 3rd - 5th grade boys. With the graphic elements it will also appeal to reluctant readers.

Kaleidoscope Eyes

Kaleidoscope Eyes
Jen Bryant
257 pages
juvenile mystery
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009

It's 1966 and the Lyza's world is in turmoil. Her mother abandoned her family and left no way to keep in touch with her. Young men from her neighborhood are being drafted to fight in Vietnam and some of them are coming home in flag-draped coffins. Her older sister Denise is something of a wild child and hanging out with a questionable crowd. Their father spends every moment at his job teaching at the university. Lyza's best friend has a color of skin not widely accepted anywhere at this time. To top everything off, her grandfather passes away. While cleaning out his house, Lyza discovers an envelope addressed to her. It contains some unusual maps and a key. With the help of her friends Lyza embarks on a secret mission to complete her grandfather's project.
A unique mystery adventure involving ancient maps and lost pirate treasure. I did like the story but I have a big problem with the book overall. The text is written in a free-verse format. A lot of the paragraph breaks and sentences structures were confusing and distracting. Only by telling myself to ignore all breaks and read it as a regular novel was I able to finish this book. I worry that a struggling reader might be a little put-off by this format. Hopefully the characters and intrigue will be enough to keep them turning the pages. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go
Chaos Walking: Book One
by Patrick Ness
479 pages
Young Adult
Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2008

Welcome to Prentisstown. Here you will find no females, no children younger than 13-years-old, and lots of Noise. Prentisstown is a colony on a distant New World. The religious settlers were unaware of a native species called "Spackles" until they were already on the planet. Naturally, a war broke out and the Natives unleashed some nasty germ that killed the women and caused the men's thoughts and feelings to project so everyone else could hear them. At least that is the history Todd Hewitt, the last boy in the villate, has always been taught. Now that he is approaching his passage into manhood, Todd discovers some things are not what they seem. He ends up on the run with some interesting companions. Fleeing from the unknown and heading towards the unknown.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a true page-turner. I loved the feel of this planet and its inhabitants. When you read it be sure to read the chapter titles as they are quite intriguing. I am currently reading the second book so look for my review on that soon. If you are looking for an action-packed fantasy/sci-fi adventure, give this one a try.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Bad Kitty

Happy Birthday Bad Kitty
written and illustrated by Nick Bruel
159 pages
New York : Roaring Brook, c2009

Bad Kitty is back with a vengeance! His loving owner is throwing him a birthday party. But the silly owner's first mistake is waking Kitty up for that party! Doesn't he know that cat's are generally quite grumpy if woken up from a nice pleasant nap? Despite all the neighborhood cats bringing him gifts and having a birthday cake that defies description, Bad Kitty's birthday is just not what was planned. It is made slightly better at the end by a surprise visitor and an especially thoughtful gift. While not quite as hilarious as Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, Bruel's lovably naughty Kitty still made me laugh out loud. The informative sections were an nice addition to the story, but it was the illustrations that really made the book so enjoyable.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quick Picture Book Reviews

Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo
by E. S. Redmond
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2009

Felicity Floo has a cold a no tissue. So what does she do? She uses her hand to wipe her nose then touches everything throughout the zoo with her germy little hands. This wasn't a very pleasant thing for the animals. The story was a little silly and not my favorite. However, the illustrations were great. Geddy especially loved finding what Felicity had been touching, this was shown by little shiny green handprints!

How to Potty Train Your Monster
by Kelly DiPucchio
ill. by Mike Moon
New York : Disney-Hyperion, c2009

Cute idea but I was not impressed with the end result.
I chose this book because I thought it would be fun to
read to Geddy who is pretty much fully potty-trained.
He got a kick out of the pictures and some of the text.
Yet a lot of the text was definitely geared towards giving
parents some tips on potty training their kids so it ended
up not being very cohesive.

The Super Hungry Dinosaur
by Martin Waddell
ill. by Leonie Lord
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, c2009

Hal and his dog, Billy, are playing in the backyard when a dinosaur comes to visit. An extremely hungry dinosaur! It wants to eat Hal and Billy. Hal takes charge of the situation and calmly convinces the dinosaur that there are other things to eat besides little boys.
A cute story, fun to read-aloud. Great example of how kids can take control of situations and not be afraid. Illustrations were simple, yet effective.

A Crazy Day at the Critter Cafe
by Barbara Odanaka
ill. by Lee White
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009

The cook and waiter of the Critter Cafe are enjoying a pleasantly slow-business day until a busload of critters stops by. Everything quickly spins out of control and they are wishing for peace and quiet again.
The story was a little weak, especially some of the rhymes. They seemed quite forced and did not have a good flow in parts. Yet the quirky illustrations made it a fun book to read with my son.

Cheech and the Spooky Ghost Bus
by Cheech Marin
ill. by Orlando L. Ramirez
New York, NY : HarperCollinsPublishers, c2009

 Cheech the bus driver stops and picks up some funny looking kids one morning. That is what a bus driver is supposed to do! After the initial panic when it turned out the new kids were ghosts, everyone ended up having fun and quite an adventure.
How could I not read a picture book written by Cheech (yes the one from Cheech and Chong fame). Especially one with a ghostly theme this close to Halloween. The illustrations were cute, but nothing special. Make it a fun read-aloud by adopting a "south-of-the-border" accent!

by Norbert Landa
ill. by Tim Warnes
Intercourse, PA : Good Books, 2009

Bear and Rabbite are best friends. They share everything and they do everything together. This perfect friendship was put to the test when they found a sparkly, shiny thing.
A pleasant little story that shows how greed and selfishness can ruin friendships and how the simplicity of a single word can make everything better. Sweet illustrations too.

The Goblin and the Empty Chair
by Mem Fox
ill. by Leo & Diane Dillon
New York : Beach Lane Books, 2009

A goblin is so distraught when he sees his own face that he decides to hide it from the world. As he tries to avoid any attention he discovers a little family who is suffering. Quietly and secretly (at least he thinks) he does all the little things he can for this family. In the end it is discovered that kind thoughts and deeds do a lot to heal those in need, and that healing goes both ways.
Fabulous in story and spectacular in art. When you read it, don't ignore the small details found at the top of each page.

All the World
by Liz Garton Scanlon
ill. by Marla Frazee
New York : Beach Lane Books, 2009

A book of discovery for family members and neighbors. They find the beauty in everything around them including the shells on the beach, the sunset and more.
The text was well-placed to add to the wonderful illustrations. Reading this book gave me warm fuzzies. Do I smell another Caldecott for Frazee? Maybe the winner this time. I sure hope so!